keep the oil in the soil

Global war against indigenous peoples: grabbing the last resources on Earth!

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The Guardian’s John Vidal recently wrote a welcome piece – ‘We are fighting for our lives and our dignity’ –  that connect some of the dots in the current end game for the Earth’s natural resources most of which are on indigenous land inhabited for thousands of years by people who care for it, worship and respect it. Transnational corporations drilling for oil, mining for minerals or cutting down all the trees and polluting the rivers – and so on – are competing to grab hold of the Earth’s last resources – and there really is not much left! (See also: UN expert puts forward measures to regulate ‘land grabbing’).

“An aggressive drive is taking place to extract the last remaining resources from indigenous territories,” says Victoria Tauli-Corpus, an indigenous Filipino and chair of the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues. “There is a crisis of human rights. There are more and more arrests, killings and abuses.
“This is happening in Russia, Canada, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Amazon, all over Latin America, Papua New Guinea and Africa. It is global. We are seeing a human rights emergency. A battle is taking place for natural resources everywhere. Much of the world’s natural capital – oil, gas, timber, minerals – lies on or beneath lands occupied by indigenous people,” says Tauli-Corpus.

What until quite recently were isolated incidents of indigenous peoples in conflict with states and corporations are now becoming common as government-backed companies move deeper on to lands long ignored as unproductive or wild. As countries and the World Bank increase spending on major infrastructural projects to counter the economic crisis, the conflicts are expected to grow.

It is a pretty good article – constituting a very important step to bring together these issues in a coherent analytical manner and to the attention of mainstream readers – but one could really have wished for something more to the point with regard to the Ecuadorian context – it is widely known and well documented that the Chevron pits are still there, even mainstream U.S television have shown such images.

“In Ecuador, Chevron may be fined billions of dollars in the next few months if an epic court case goes against them. The company is accused of dumping, in the 1970s and 1980s, more than 19bn gallons of toxic waste and millions of gallons of crude oil into waste pits in the forests, leading to more than 1,400 cancer deaths and devastation of indigenous communities. The pits are said to be still there, mixing chemicals with groundwater and killing fish and wildlife.”

To use the expression “are said to be still there” is really not appropriate, when anyone having spend five seconds googling the issue will have seen horrible, terrifying images:

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Oil spill in the Ecuadorian Amazon

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It’s a disaster.

colonos is here reproducing an article from the Ecuadorian national daily El Comercio (in Spanish).

The extent of the spill is yet to be determined, but basically it occurred due to a rupture of the 305km long pipeline running from the Amazon to the coast. On Tuesday, the pipeline broke in the cantón El Chaco in the rainforest at the foothills of the Andes where it runs 20m under the ground. The river Santa Rosa turned black. The pipeline carried 130,000 barrels of crude at the moment of rupture. The company reports that the oil exports are guaranteed until the end of the month. Clean up, according to the company, might last over a year. But how clean is clean?

Fecha: Miércoles 25 de Febrero de 2009
Fuente: El Comercio

La rotura de una de las sueldas de la tubería del Oleoducto de Crudos
Pesados (OCP) ocasionó un derrame de petróleo de proporciones en el
cantón El Chaco.

A las 10:30, María Macas se sorprendió al ver que el río Santa Rosa era
una gran mancha negra que corría lentamente. Uno de sus mayores temores se hizo realidad ayer: hubo un derrame de petróleo que cubrió el cauce del río, las piedras y la maleza de las orillas.
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WORLD FACING HUGE NEW CHALLENGE ON FOOD FRONT: The 11th Hour in context

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We watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s “11th hour” last night (you might be able to watch it here or via quicksilversreen.com and read more about it here) and although it was by no stretch of the imagination a very good film on any terms (structure, presentation of material, cinematography or in terms of delivering a profound radical political message) it was still a positive surprise. But hey! what would you expect, come on, be honest?

In the critical (mainstream environmentalist?) words of Rikke Bruntse-Dahl, writing for smartplanet.com:

“The overall message was that we’ve forgotten that we’re part of nature and even though the Earth as such will survive, it will not be a pleasant — or indeed habitable — place to be if we don’t start looking after it and each other. While it’s undoubtedly a good message, which we’d like as many people as possible to hear, the film itself is just not up to scratch.

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The struggle of the Achuar in Peru

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Dan Collyns for BBC News writes about the struggle of the Achuar in Peru that their “story is an emblematic case of resistance for indigenous Amazonians and is unprecedented in Peru“. The article provides a little bit of information, but it is not contexualised very well. There is a similar struggle fought by the Cofan in Ecuador which also only gets minimal time and attention in the mainstream media – and also generally only reported on in isolation. Between the territories of the Cofan and the Achuar lies the Yasuni National park, about which much has been written in this blog. While we keep compiling more comprehensive information and try to tie these obviously mutually relevant scenarios together, we seem to be waiting in vain for editors of the environmental sections of what is left of a critical voices in the corporately led world of media to bring stories that connect these struggles with the “leave the oil in the soil” proposal and the general discourse of climate change.

Climate Change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges

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These are the conclusions of a report on the “IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION MEASURES ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND ON THEIR TERRITORIES AND LANDS”, by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues’ Seventh session, New York, 21 April -2 May 2008 on the Special Theme: “Climate Change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges” with regard to the Implementation of the recommendations on the six mandated areas of the permanent Forum and on the Millennium Development Goals (Download the full E/C.19/2008/10 report here: unpfii-report-on-climate-change.pdf):

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Correa’s idea of saving the Amazon: a new airport?

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Rafael Correa is being billed as a great hope for his own version of “21st century socialism”, for “his” proposal to leave the oil in the soil – and he talks about respect for the traditional culture of the people who live in the Ecuadorian Amazon. But the last thing the people who live traditionally in the Amazon they could possibly need is an airport; so that’s what they’ll have? But let us first take a look at the facts about the historical genocide and the current situation for the people at the receiving end of Correa’s revolution:

“Manuela Omari Ima, who is the new chairperson of Waorani women’s organization, Amwae, has first hand experience in the devastating consequences of oil exploration. “The indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon have been decimated in just a few decades,” she says. “The Waorani people alone numbered around 16,000 at the end of the 1960s, when the oil exploration began. Today, there are no more than about a thousand of us left… I don’t know how much longer we can survive under the current conditions. Perhaps the industry will out-live us – judging by how it has wiped out other tribal peoples in the Amazon. Maybe the earth will have nothing left to give when the companies leave.” … Altogether, an estimated 90% of the indigenous peoples in the Amazon region of Ecuador have been wiped out over the past few decades”

An airport in the Ecuadorian Amazon can serve only people employed by the extractive industries, politicians and celebrities on photo shoots, cocaine gangsters, mercenaries and stupid tourists that should stay at home – it is total disrespect for the people of the Amazon, many of whom have serious financial problems getting on a 50 cent bus to take a dying child to the hospital in town. There is already one airport too many – in Tena.

“President Correa will seek Chinese investment in a major airport in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where construction is planned to start in 2008, the ministry said… Ecuador is seeking and enlarging cooperation with and investment from China, the ministry said. “The diplomatic relations between the two countries, since established in 1980, have witnessed more progress,” the ministry added… Ecuador has received 1.8 billion U.S. dollars of investment from China, making it the leading recipient of Chinese investment in Latin America. In the first nine months this year the bilateral trade volume has topped 669 million dollars.”

In the last ten years the Ecuadorian Amazon has been halved and towns like Tena doubled. Some peoples almost eradicated. Will it never stop? If Correa’s government is a socialist revolution, then what does it take to challenge the destruction of the Amazon rain forest?

Esperanza Martinez on Yasuni and the ITT proposal.

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This article by CarbonWeb.org deserves to be reproduced in full:

Yasuni – Our Future in Their Hands?

Ecuador proposes to claim compensation in exchange for leaving crude oil in the ground. Esperanza Martinez examines what this means for resource sovereignty.

Oil, for countries that possess it, is often centre stage when it comes to issues of sovereignty. Invasions have been launched to access it and military and political interventions pushed through to control it, leaving the door wide open for corruption.

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